File Under: Multimedia

Developer Turns Geocities Archive Into a ‘Digital Pompeii’

For a brief time in the early ’90s Geocities was the web. And, for all its shortcomings, Geocities did nevertheless usher in much of what makes the web great — that anyone can create nearly anything.

When Yahoo picked up Geocities for $3.5 billion in 1999 many called it a bargain, but a mere 10 years later the web had moved on and Yahoo shut down and deleted Geocities. The Archive Team stepped in at the last minute and managed to preserve some 650GB worth of Geocities, which lives on as a Bittorrent file. Like most of us you probably find that vaguely comforting, but chances are, you aren’t seeding that file. In fact, we haven’t heard of anything coming out of the Archive Team’s efforts, until now.

Developer and designer Richard Vijgen has put together what looks like a very cool visualization of the Geocities data. Given that Geocities split websites into neighborhoods (usually based on content), nicknamed URLs streets and even called its users “homesteaders,” Vijgen decided to use that metaphor to construct The Deleted City.

Vijgen calls The Deleted City, “a digital Pompeii … that allows you to wander through an episode of recent online history.”

[The Deleted City] depicts the file system as a city map, spatially arranging the different neighborhoods and individual lots based on the number of files they contain.

In full view, the map is a data visualisation showing the relative sizes of the different neighborhoods. While zooming in, more and more detail becomes visible, eventually showing individual html pages and the images they contain.

So far there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to actually access The Deleted City for yourself. Vijgen tells our friends at Wired UK, “The project was intended to be a touch screen installation to be exhibited in a gallery setting. I’m currently looking for a suitable setting to show it.”

In the meantime you’ll have to make do with the video walkthrough above.

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